Mount St. Helens offers a fitting backdrop for the Tourist Company’s new album, with every towering track relating back to Washington’s most prominent peak that famously erupted 40 years ago, spreading its ashes throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Serving as a metaphor for volatility, St. Helens is a concept album of sorts, which leads us through the many stages of processing tragedy. “We started writing this record three years ago and the world felt crazy then. We could never have guessed the extent to which the bottom would fall out from under us this year,” says Taylor Swindells reflecting on the state of the world amid the pandemic.
Swindells and his bandmate Brenon Parry have been writing music and performing together since 2013. Their latest creation is their most powerful and cinematic to date, taking their atmospheric post-rock leanings to impressive new heights.
In the middle of tracking the album, Swindells took a trip to Mount St. Helens with his partner who was six months pregnant at the time, and the trip had an impactful effect on him.
“I remember being struck by the serenity of that moment; the way time had healed this once devastated landscape. We walked through the trees that had regrown from the ashes. We sat by Coldwater Lake as the wildlife teemed, seemingly unaware that this lake didn’t exist before May 18, 1980. It all felt like a false sense of security, like at any moment the trees themselves could burst into flames. The volatility of that one moment 40 years ago changed the way I will look at that valley forever.”
When Mount St. Helens erupted, the phrase “Vancouver, Vancouver this is it!” were among the last words heard over the radio from volcanologist David A. Johntson. Those same words are also the title of the opening track on St. Helens, a song which sets the scene for a beautiful and cinematic rollercoaster ride that delivers as many peaks as there are calm and seductive valleys.
“The phrase felt like a fitting title for a song describing that first moment of abject wonder and terror at what was unfolding before their eyes,” Swindells says. “[The song is] about trying to maintain composure when you feel like the world is quite literally exploding around you.”
While there aren’t any volcanoes currently affecting our daily lives, the parallels to the natural disaster and our current state of the world are undeniable.
“We wrote a record about processing life-shattering events and then the world shattered. I felt like I was living all the thoughts and emotions of the album in real-time while listening back to it,” says Swindells. “My hope for it is that it normalizes the chaos in people’s minds, that it provides a safe space to process and be frustrated while also offering hope the future exists and we’ll make it there together.”
While Swindells is currently bunkered down at home, proudly holding down his dad duties with his partner by his side, he and his bandmate are naturally itching to share their new music with the world.
We’re excited to share the premiere of The Tourist Company’s St. Helens with an exclusive first-listen right here. The band will also be hosting a live stream of paired down songs from the album for their fans and friends on Saturday, May 16 via YouTube at 5 pm PST (8 pm EST).
“Down the road we’d like to figure out a way to livestream the full band, but for now you can expect to hear an unheard side to our songs and some (hopefully brief) ramblings from me,” says Swindells. “I really hope it’s time for us to connect with our friends and fans who’ve been following our music for a while because I truly miss them all.”
Tune into The Tourist Company’s live stream on May 16 here and listen to St. Helens in its entirety below.